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HUSK biochar: trials show significant increase in crop yields and farmers’ income

At the start of 2019 around 50% of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in Cambodia were being imported from Thailand, Vietnam and China. That’s a market worth €180 million a year and a great deal of potential income that local smallholder horticulture farmers had zero access to.

Most fruit and veg farmers in Cambodia grow on plots of land measuring just over half a hectare. They simply do not produce enough fresh produce to cater to the growing demand. At the same time, over 40% of rural communities suffer from a lack of access to affordable, nutritious food.

Latest ADB figures point to 12.9% of Cambodians living under the national poverty line and around 90% of those people living in rural areas. Now, more than ever, there is a call for more homegrown produce to increase the country’s food security and improve the livelihoods of smallholder fruit and veg farmers.

One of the reasons these farmers are not able to compete effectively is a lack of access to affordable horticultural inputs such as fertilisers and soil improvement products. That’s where HUSK comes in. In 2019, Dutch international development organisation SNV used 8 tonnes of our HUSK organic biochar in field trials on 14 farms across Cambodia.

The trials ran throughout 2019, over both wet and dry seasons. The farmers themselves and SNV technicians measured the increase in marketable yields, testing out the effects of biochar on a variety of crops, including egg plant, choy sum, cucumber, watermelon, yardlong bean and onion leaf.

The results were impressive: crops where biochar was introduced showed an average yield increase of 29%. 

HUSK has also partnered with FAEC, a national Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives, APPSEA, an organisation promoting sustainable agriculture practices across the country and the international NGO iDE and we have run 6 more trials across the provinces Battambang, Kandal and Takeo. On 2 of these, the crops enriched with biochar provided more than a dollar of extra income per m2, a significant increase for those farmers who earn an average of less than $5 a day. 

Tek Sopath, natural farmer, Kandal, Cambodia: “Í used to water my seedlings 3 times per day, with HUSK biochar I just water once.”

As the results demonstrate, we are making surprisingly big steps in the right direction, but this is by no means the end of the story. At HUSK, our aim is to increase not only crop yields but also farmers’ income, providing food security and long-term sustainable livelihoods for smallholder fruit and veg farmers and their families.

Research and development is part of our DNA and we continue to monitor our impact across Cambodia in line with our theory of change, which is to build soil, sink carbon and improve lives

Our next trials are with the organic, fair trade pepper cooperative Farmlink in Kampot and Harvest 2, a project funded by USAID and involving 200 farmers in Battambang province.

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